Getting along with your neighbours

Help at hand when things go wrong

We all need good neighbours – someone to put the bins out when we’re away, pop round for a chat, or even help out with the gardening. It’s reassuring to know there’s a friend on the doorstep ready to lend a hand if you need it.

But getting along with the people around you can sometimes be difficult. Problems with noise, litter and parking can quickly escalate and affect the quality of life for everyone involved.

When things go wrong, our Resolve Mediation Team is on hand to help sort out neighbour disputes. Made up of two part-time staff and 12 volunteers, every member of the team has been specially trained to give professional support to local residents.

Supporting local residents

Originally run by Bolton Council, Resolve moved to Bolton at Home three years ago. The service reflects our commitment to customer care and our drive to create stronger communities. Residents can be referred to the service by the Tenancy Enforcement Team or they can refer themselves.

Cat Woodhall-Crook, who manages the service, says: “Often the people who come to us have been dealing with a neighbour problem for years. For some, it’s got to the point where the situation is affecting their mental health. They’re keen to give mediation a try but, at first, they’re not convinced it will work. So when it does, and they get a positive outcome, they’re amazed and wish they’d tried it sooner.

“Once we’ve helped to resolve a dispute, we check back with the resident four weeks later to see how things are going. At this point, you can see a real change in their mood; they appear less anxious and much happier.”

How the service works

An example of what might happen if you self-refer:

Step 1: You’ll speak with one of our mediators to explain your situation.

Step 2: The mediator will write to your neighbour. Your neighbour will be given the option of meeting the mediator to discuss the situation. At this point your identity will remain anonymous.

Step 3: If we don’t hear from your neighbour, no further steps will be taken. However, if they’re willing to take part, then two mediators will visit both parties separately.

Step 4: The next step might involve meeting your neighbour as part of a structured mediation meeting. Each person will be given the opportunity to talk and ask questions. The mediator will focus on the problems and solutions for both parties.

Step 5: During the meeting, what everyone agrees will be written into a mediation agreement and both parties will be asked to sign it.

Professionally-trained volunteers

The volunteer mediators undergo a comprehensive training programme. They learn about problem solving, assertiveness, human behaviour and self awareness. Through role play and by shadowing more experienced mediators, they learn how to deal with different people in different situations.

Cat adds: “Volunteers need to have a heightened sense of self awareness, be able to empathise with both parties, and know how to deal with anger, fear and anxiety. The experience they get is brilliant. I’ve known people take a complete career change after volunteering as a mediator.

“Each volunteer handles one case at a time, and works between two and three hours a week. They come from all walks of life – people with backgrounds in business, sales, law, mental health, teaching and the care service.”

Maura, a volunteer who's has been involved in mentoring for 20 years and runs her own mediation training company, says: “I’ve been volunteering with Resolve for two years as I enjoy doing the case work.  It’s very rewarding to see people transform as they come through the process and realise that the person they’ve been in conflict with has needs and feelings like they do, and also wants a peaceful end to the dispute.”

The team recently had an event where Dave, a long-standing volunteer, officially retired from the service after being a mediator for 26 years.

Resolve will be recruiting more volunteers in August and September so anyone who’s interested should get in touch on the number below.

If you have a neighbour problem and you’d like to speak to the team, call 01204 329916 or 01204 329917.

If you have a story to share, please email news@boltonathome.org.uk